A few years ago - must have been more than four, because that's how old this blog is and I would have mentioned it - round about this time of year I got a mailing from the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. These are artists who would be very talented even if they were able to use their hands to paint. They can't, for sundry reasons, hence the name of the outfit, and thus are even more worthy of respect. Their pictures are very good indeed, which I say in the full knowledge I couldn't draw my way out of a paper bag. Nor do they want to live off charity - they intend to pay their way. Respect.
What a shame they do it in the most unseasonably cynical, manipulative way possible. The mailing contained a bundle of Christmas cards painted by said individuals. Very nice Christmas cards. Proper Christmassy scenes. Nothing cutesy or twee. With a Christmas message inside - none of this "Season's Greetings" twaddle. The covering letter said I was under no obligation whatsoever but if I liked the cards they really hoped I'd buy them ...
Which I did, with a covering letter of my own saying that admired their work, despised their tactics, and any further unsolicited bundles of cards would be treated as a gift. I didn't hear from them again for at least five years, until last week when they kindly sent me another present.
AAGH! Curse these principles of mine.
The cards are good. The artists are amazing. Their marketing is beyond contempt. If they had just repeated the stunt year after year I would find it much easier to live up to my promise and treat the cards as a gift. But, five years minimum? They may well have a new marketing person. They may be working off an old backup. Or, are they just thinking that enough water has passed under the bridge for me to soften up. How's a guy to know? How annoying that the one known, guaranteed constant is their utterly shameless, scheming emotional blackmail.
So, no, sorry. I said what I'd do and I'm doing it. I've sent the cards out to various friends (hey, free advertising! They do get something out of this) and I'm not paying. There are plenty of charities out there that play the game. Okay, this lot emphasise they're not a charity ... well, there are worse things, you know. You don't have to Bernard Cribbins in The Railway Children. And if you were a charity, any donations could be Gift Aided.
Anyway, what are they going to do? Beat me up?